A major part of ASA’s annual Winter Leadership Meeting is setting the PHCP-PVF national association’s course both in the short- and long-term. And once again ASA volunteer leadership gathered in early February at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif., to do just that.

One of the major topics of discussion during the two-day strategic planning session was establishing a firm path to which ASA members can attract quality new talent into their organizations — a topic of key concern throughout the PHCP-PVF supply chain. Recruitment and education was one of four mega goals on the agenda along with achieving operational excellence, advocacy and industry stewardship.

Keeney Mfg. Co.’s Karen Fox suggested ramping up recruiting efforts on social media and video platforms to educate prospective job seekers on what the PHCP-PVF industry has to offer. “We have to appeal to the younger generation,” she said. “We need an aggressive campaign that shows what we are all about whether that’s using social media or producing professional videos.”

Rich-Tomkins Co.’s Stew Chaffee, the current AIM/R president, cautioned ASA leadership about the dire state of this topic.

“If we do not have enough young people joining our industry, we are in trouble,” he said. “ASA members need to take the reins on this one. We also need to help our customers with this. If we don’t have the trades standing on the other side of the counter, we’re done.

“RIDGID (tool manufacturer) did a study at 250 high schools that shows only 6% of the current high-school senior class would consider a job in the trades. There is a mindset in this country that if you don’t go to college you are a loser. I recently read a Harvard report where 46% of kids who enter college won’t leave with a degree and another third of college grads are underemployed, yet they are saddled with students loans because that’s what they were told to do to be ‘successful.’ I’m seeing more college grads now attending trade school because they realize it’s a solid career in a job that can’t be exported and has plenty of upside potential with the average age of the plumber today at 59 years old. There are many opportunities for young men and women in our industry. It’s up to all of us to help them find it.”

Another hot-button topic was the importance and advancement of ASA’s advocacy platform. “The advocacy goal has never been as important as it is right now and in the next couple years,” Bongard Corp. President Peter Mayer said. “ASA must be the unified leader in the PHCP-PVF industry with local, state and federal regulatory agencies.”

That urgency was again stressed by ASA Government Affairs Chairman Jeff New (Mid-City Supply) during the specialty group annual updates delivered at the ASA Board of Directors meeting that closed out the planning session.

“There has never been a greater need for advocacy in this room,” New said. “There is a lot of change happening in government and that change likely will increase. We need to be a unified voice. Participate in the advocacy pillar. If you are worried about things such as health care, come to an ASA fly-in in Washington. It’s better to have a seat at the table rather than being on the menu.”

Hirsch Pipe & Supply’s Bill Glockner spoke about another of the association’s key goals of embracing the future. “ASA needs a change management program where members can go back to their organizations with a tool kit that will help drive adoption of new technologies and processes,” he said. “As an association, we must assist members to understand changing customer needs and trends and help the industry compete with growing challenges such as threats from online competitors.”


Survey says

ASA also revealed results of an industry survey concerning many topics relevant to its membership. Of particular note, 91% of respondents feel there will be increased industry consolidation — a significant issue respondents feel needs consideration and discussion moving forward.

On the business/economic climate front, 74% of respondents feel the price of oil and energy costs will continue to evolve, while 72% feel the availability of water will be a significant issue, particularly in drier climates.

An additional positive finding shows 98% of respondents feel the industry will continue to evolve and change.


Another robust year

ASA again enjoyed another strong year in 2016. Net membership growth was achieved for a fifth year in a row. The association now boasts 329 members.

Financially, ASA Chairman Tim Milford (Milford Supply) speaking on behalf of Treasurer Steve Cook (Northeastern Supply) noted ASA exceeded its goal of net profits for 2016 by more than 30%. The association’s cash-on-hand goal for the year also was surpassed. “We had a good year,” Milford said.

Past ASA President Scott Weaver (APR Supply) lauded the association’s financial standing and also offered a suggestion that was met with positive response. “Those are fantastic budget numbers,” he said. “It would be really nice to ponder the question that if you have those operating resources that anything above and beyond could be reinvested in ASA, which is a positive reinvestment in ourselves.”

In terms of industry education, ASA University continued its positive upward trajectory with the expansion of the ASA-U Advisory Service and the Master of Distribution Management Program, which produced its first graduate in Joe Ward from Columbus, Ohio-based industrial PVF distributor Pipe Valves.

From 2012-2016, ASA University trained more than 8,000 member company employees, more than 54,000 courses were taken and more than 230 member companies were engaged.

ASA also added a codes and standards division (led by Hugo Aguilar, P.E.) that has made significant inroads in that arena in a short amount of time.

This year’s meeting was moderated by Supply House Times columnist and UnleashWD founder Dirk Beveridge who interspersed educational tidbits during the meeting, including the fact a recent study shows the largest age group in the U.S. workforce to grow over the last 17 years is the 65-69-year-old category with the 70-74-year-old group ranking second. “There is a big generational shift of employees and customers occurring,” he said.

Beveridge also shared some thoughts from retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis, who spoke at the 2016 UnleashWD conference in Chicago. Beveridge shared how Stavridis breaks down his professional leadership time that includes 15% on operations, 25% on people development, 25% on learning, 25% on strategic messaging and 10% on innovation.

ASA’s NETWORK2017 takes place Oct. 11-13 in Nashville, Tenn. The association is coming off a 10-year distributor participation high at the event.


This article was originally titled “Securing the industry’s future” in the March 2017 print edition of Supply House Times.